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Chicago area college visits

Old Aug 31st, 2004, 09:42 AM
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Chicago area college visits

My son and I are planning a visit to Wheaton College and Northwestern on 9/13. We fly into O'Hare midday on 9/12 and have a visit scheduled at Wheaton the morning of 9/13. We are scheduled to fly out of O'Hare the evening of 9/13 (7pm). We would like to schedule a visit to Northwestern for the afternoon of 9/13. Is it possible to cram all this in, taking into consideration travel time? Where should we stay and how should we travel between locations? If we stay in Chicago on night of 9/12, will getting to Wheaton the morning of 9/13 be a nightmare? Any help is greatly appreciated!
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Old Aug 31st, 2004, 10:16 AM
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I'm having a difficult time coming up with a good way to organize this.

Wheaton and Northwestern are essentially in opposite directions from O'Hare -- Wheaton about 45 minutes drive west and a bit south, and Evanston about 30 minutes to the east and a bit north (both those times are driving and assuming not much traffic). There is no train service that connects the two. They are on separate train lines that require a connection in downtown Chicago.

Yes, driving from downtown Chicago to Wheaton on a Monday morning will be a pain. The Eisenhower is never fun, and there is significant construction on I88 that causes bottlenecks before the Naperville Rd. exit. You could take the Metra train (about 45-50 minute ride) from downtown to Wheaton, but your options for getting back by train would be quite limited. You essentially would have to take another train all the way back downtown in order to catch a different train (Metra or El) to Evanston or the El to the airport. And the mid-day Metra trains generally only run once per hour.

I would allow 60-90 minutes to drive from Wheaton to Evanston during the middle of the day. And I would allow about an hour to get from Evanston back to O'Hare near evening rush. That will really constrict your time on the NU campus. Having lived in Evanston for a number of years, I found it convenient for north/south transportation but very inconvenient to get to points west, unfortunately.

I would recommend not trying to include downtown Chicago in the mix and, rather, spending Sunday afternoon/evening familiarizing yourself with one area/campus or the other -- probably Wheaton, as I wouldn't want to make the drive from Evanston to Wheaton during am rush hour. Hopefully, you could end your visit at Wheaton early enough on Monday to allow you at least a few hours on the NU campus (as an alum, I'm quite fond of it!).

Hopefully others will have some better ideas. Good luck!
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Old Aug 31st, 2004, 10:46 AM
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Wow--I can't imagine two much more disparate secondary education experiences.

You will need a car to get to Wheaton. I would really recommend not staying downtown for a number of reasons--the parking will be expensive, the hotel will be expensive, and the drive to Wheaton in the morning will be bad, as it would most likely involve the Eisenhower (290). When my husband had court calls in Wheaton, it could easily take him 90 minutes to get there from downtown in traffic.

It's much easier to drive directly from O'Hare to the western suburbs and stay in a hotel there--perhaps the college has a recommendation.

As for sneaking in a visit to NU, I think it would depend on the end time for the Wheaton visit. The two suburbs aren't close together, and I have frankly no idea how long the drive between them would be (although it would definately be more than an hour).

If you left Wheaton at noon, you could have a 2 pm appointment at NU, but would probably have to leave Evanston by 4 or 4:30 to return the rental car at O'Hare and get to your gate in a comfortable fashion.

Perhaps someone who leaves the city more frequently than I do might have a better idea of actual routes and drive times (I only know one way to get anywhere involving the 'burbs).

HTH,
Racy
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Old Aug 31st, 2004, 10:57 AM
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I agree with Racy. Small town, small school, traditionally non-dancing Wheaton College vs. major city, major school, you-are-on-your-own-so-don't- blow-it-Northwestern.
Let us know which one he likes better.
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Old Aug 31st, 2004, 11:08 AM
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samrs,

Not sure when you actually arrive, but perhaps you could schedule one of those visits the afternoon of the 12th? Maybe Wheaton the afternoon of the 12th, Northwestern the morning of the 13th, a quick trip into the city and then back to the airport?

I also think staying at O'Hare might be your best bet.

We live right by Evanston, btw.

Martha
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Old Aug 31st, 2004, 11:15 AM
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This will be tough but with determination and patience (bad traffic), it could be done as long as your visit at Wheaton is somewhat early and you stick to a tight schedule. Since your son will be spending 4+ years at college and you will be spending your hard earned money to send him there, it only makes sense to make an informed decision on where to go to school.

Here's how I would do it with the final goal of being at the airport at 5:30pm at the latest (return rental car and no checked baggage). Stay downtown Sunday night at the hotel of your choice and leave Monday morning for Wheaton College no later than 7am getting a little ahead of the big traffic rush. Explore Wheaton College on your own if you have time before your official visit. Leave Wheaton about 11:30. Doing a quick mapquest route finder, Northwestern is almost 40 miles from Wheaton and it is not all expressway. Arrive Northwestern about 1 pm. Depart Northwestern for airport by 4:30 at the latest. Traffic will be tough...turn on the radio and tune the traffic out.

To eliminate the early morning wake in the above situation, I would take in the sights of Chicago on Sunday/Sunday night and drive out to Wheaton Sunday night (missing traffic) and stay somewhere nearby Wheaton College. There's a bunch of nearby hotels listed on Wheaton College's website. Good luck.
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Old Aug 31st, 2004, 12:23 PM
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You guys are terrific! Thanks so much for your help.

One more question, if you will indulge me ... since the El and Metra don't provide the connections I need, renting a car is the next best option (verses hiring a cab)?

And yes, his college interest choices certainly span the spectrum! We are flying into O'Hare following a visit at Washington University!
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Old Aug 31st, 2004, 12:50 PM
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Can you push your Wheaton appointment up to about noon? Then you could head to Northwestern from the airport on Sunday night, stay over in Evanston, which has a lot to do, do a class or interview at 8 in the morning, then leave for Wheaton by 10 a.m. Allow 90 minutes from NU to Wheaton. Spend the rest of the day there, then head for O'Hare around 4:30. You'll miss a lot of traffic this way, and around here we kind of plan our lives around traffic.
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Old Aug 31st, 2004, 01:24 PM
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Northwestern will not be in session Sept. 13 (unless their schedule has changed drastically recently), and an 8 am class would be hard to come by regardless, unless your son intends to apply to the Technological Institute.

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Old Aug 31st, 2004, 02:02 PM
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According to their web site, Sept. 14 is the day that residence halls open for fall quarter, and orientation begins, at Northwestern. Classes for the fall quarter begin on 9/22.

I know what my own daughter's college is like on the day before move-in/orientation begins: no classes to visit, very few students on campus, dining halls not open, lots of key staff on vacation. Well, the bookstore will be fully stocked!

Is there any way you can reschedule this visit, for a time that will be more productive in seeing what Northwestern is really like? IMHO, it's not worth the obvious hassle, and perhaps you should just focus on Wheaton, where classes started last week.
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Old Aug 31st, 2004, 02:07 PM
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Patg's idea is a good one, and I thought about recommending something like that, but I did notice on NU's website that they do their info sessions and tours at 1:15pm and 2:00pm, respectively, on weekdays. NU's residence halls open on 9/14 this year (classes the following week), so you will probably see a lot of preparations but not a lot of students yet.

Evanston would be a fun place to spend the evening, but I would only recommend it if you can reverse your visit schedules.

I wouldn't consider cabs a good option. Point-to-point suburban taxi service is pretty expensive and it would add up to much more than a car. It's been a while since I lived in Evanston, but I recall Evanston-ORD being around $25 plus tip. ORD-Wheaton will be a bit more. Evanston-Wheaton easily over $50, I would expect.

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Old Aug 31st, 2004, 08:59 PM
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Both Wheaton College and Northwestern are accesible by public transportaion from downtown Chicago.

The Union Pacific West Line stops at College Ave. in Wheaton - one block away from Wheaton College. check out www.wheaton.edu for directions

The Union Pacific North Line goes to Davis Street in Downtown Evanstown. The NW campus is a few blocks away.

Both trains leave from the Ogilvie Transportation Center downtown Chicago.
Try www.metrarail.com

NWestern can also be reached by the Purple Line of the CTA.

Sample schedule - Arrive ORD Sunday 9/12 take EL to hotel in downtown Chicago. A late afternoon/evening tour of Northwestern on Sunday.

Monday AM take the train from downtown Chicago to Wheaton. Return via train to downtown. Have a late lunch or do a little shopping. Take EL to airport.

It's much less expensive than renting a car. You get to read/relax on the train.

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Old Sep 1st, 2004, 05:22 AM
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Wow, you have quite a diversity of opinion here.

I see no reason for you to go into Chicago at all. This is a college trip, not a tourist visit. Going into the city will only complicate life, be expensive and introduce you to more Chicago style traffic than necessary. Stay near Wheaton: Naperville or Downers Grove have lots of choices. Rent a car, get Wheaton accomplished as early as you can and do what you have to do.
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Old Sep 1st, 2004, 01:53 PM
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You are coming within 2 hours of one of the greatest Universities on earth and not visiting.

If at all possible, I would try to stop up at UW-Madison to show your son around. It has the combination of civic activism, nightlife/culture, and academic prestige that is unmatched by any other University.

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Old Sep 2nd, 2004, 06:51 AM
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heres my two cents. (on getting around)

Stay at ohare or downers grove. rent a car, Drive to Evantson the first day - and visit NW. - eat dinner here evanston has FAR better(and much more choices) restuarants than wheaton.
DO NOT GO DOWNTOWN -you don't have time
take 90east to 94 north(edens) and get of at Oakton(or one of the roads near) and go east to get to evanston.From ohare the next day take 294 south to 88 west to get to wheaton


Heres my Two cents (on colleges) - if you care

NW is a fantastic world renowned large private unitverisity. Often ranked in the US top 10. Also - evanton is a much nicer town to live in than Wheaton. Evanston has easy access to the City, has a beach on the lake.and much more in terms of college life

Wheaton college is a great small college. many people like it very much and I belive it is a good school.Wheaton is a small town conservative community with little to do as far as college life.

Wheaton college has a good repuation, but will not have nearly the facilies,programs or reputation of NW.

Also
IF you are considering schools in the area ( and I am assuming your son is very bright since you are considering NW) you should also consider Univerisity of Chicago (in hyde park) also another world renowned school, Carbon dating and the nuclear bomb were invented here. (PS this is not the same school as UIC-univerity of illionis at chicago)
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Old Sep 2nd, 2004, 07:47 AM
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samrs,

Your question was enough to make me register. I think I know the answer! I grew up in Wheaton and went to Northwestern for graduate school. I agree with others that adding in downtown Chicago would not make sense on this trip. I'd suggest saving it for a return trip if one of the two schools turns out to be a finalist in your son's decision process.

Because everyone likes Evanston and not everyone likes Wheaton, I'd say you have to spend most of your visit in Wheaton. So, after you get into O'Hare, drive down and stay in the area. If $150 to $200 per night works for you, stay at the Wheaton Inn, a modern small (16 room) inn in downtown Wheaton that is very popular with the Wheaton college crowd. If you'd rather travel on the cheap, you can score the Hyatt in Lisle or the Hilton in Naperville (10-15 minutes away) for under $35 on priceline.

On Sunday afternoon in Wheaton you can stroll the campus (you'll be able to cover it all in 90 minutes) and meet some students. On Sunday night, go to downtown Wheaton and eat at 120 Ocean Place (seafood), Emilio's (tapas), Muldoons (high-end Irish pub), or Pad Thai (thai).

Do your scheduled visit on Monday morning at Wheaton and leave when you can for Evanston. As long as you avoid rush hour (7-9am) you can plan on the trip taking no longer than 75 minutes in your rental car. Arrive at Northwestern and take one of the afternoon tours, get a feel for the campus and town by walking around and leave for O'Hare around 5pm.

As others have said, Wheaton to Evanston is not an easy (or pretty) trip. It was a real pain to visit home from grad school.

If you have any questions about either school or community, feel free to post - or email if that's possible on this board.

Regards,

Kevin
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Old Sep 2nd, 2004, 11:50 AM
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Thanks everyone, for your terrific advice and pratical suggestions. I will put them to good use.

Thanks to ChiDad for taking the time to register and give me a plan.

This is my first time on this site as well, and the reason I registered is because from the answers I was seeing posted on other questions, I was convinced that nobody knows an area like someone who has "been there ... done that!"

Thanks again-
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